Children learn through their fingers. They learn poorly through their ears. If their fingers are stronger, they can learn more. This study found that kindergarteners’ fine motor control predicted future math and reading achievement.

Did you know that arm and shoulder strength are important for fine motor control? There is a muscle which starts in the forearm and ends in the hand. Also, if the child’s shoulder is too weak to hold the arm still, it doesn’t matter how fine their motor skills are, they won’t be successful at their task.

But opportunities to strengthen their arms and hands are built into their day: opening fruit snacks, carrying the milk, pushing open the door, peeling oranges, and squeezing the spray bottle while cleaning. If we do too many of these tasks for them, it is entirely possible we will hurt our children while helping them.

When a child comes to me with a task that is too tricky for them, I make them try three times before I take over. And it’s surprising how many times they are able to do it! They feel awesome.

I also use misbehavior as an opportunity to strengthen their arms. If a child is purposely bothering another, I assign pushups. It’s perfect. It interrupts the problem, it uses up extra energy, and it makes them stronger.

These are some activities I set up for my children. Here they are, so you can make more beautiful versions for your small people.

twist pipe cleaners together to form a tree with roots and branches, then thread pony beads on the branches

book where you place cheerios to finish the picture

two Lego creations

clothespins with letters on them that match letters on a paper it's clipped to

Austin is coloring with tiny broken crayons. They take more finger strength! So convenient. And frugal.

boys coloring paper coins with tiny broken crayons and cutting them out with scissors

laminated paper coins that fit in slots and pom poms that fit in holes cut in a oats tub

a baby playing with the coin box

three kids writing on paper, crumpling them and throwing them in the basket This one was an accident. a toddler holding scissors Scrapbooking! An epic mess. kids scrapbooking

preschooler putting toothpicks in oats jar with pinholes cut and a baby putting pom pom in holes

kids sharpening pencils with a manual sharpener

boy in a gymnastics class practicing a handstand

two children playing with playdoh

two children playing with playdoh

three children playing with playdoh

a father showing children how to make rubber band balls

four squirt toys in the shape of Finding Nemo characters

sewing cards

stuffed animals wearing hand-sewn clothes made by a child

children playing with squirt guns outside

more children playing with squirt guns

a boy playing with stickers

three children tearing up paper in a big pile at the table

a child balancing tiny base ten blocks on each other

toothpicks to put in a jar with tiny holes

pom poms in the bottom holes of a Duplo with a pair of tweezers

a daily medicine container with pom poms in each part with a pair of tweezers

an empty bottle with a twist lid

a glass tray with two cups and a pipette to transfer water

a jar of paperclips and some pieces of paper

screwdriver practice

tiny dot stickers

chenille stems twisted in the shape of a tree with pony beads to thread onto it

Erika playing with a bead tree

sewing a stuffed animal